Hollywood's latest epic resonates with Marines
By Cpl. Shawn M. Toussaint
| | December 19, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
The Los Angeles Times embarked on a journey Dec. 8, taking Depot Marines back in time to a land where honor and loyalty weighed in the balance between power and change.
This story takes place in 19th century Japan, during the time of the samurai.
The journey began at the ticket window of Horton Plaza's movie theater in Down Town San Diego, where the Marines would be treated to a free viewing of The Last Samurai.
As part of an L.A. Time's entertainment story project, reporter, Tony Perry invited Marines out to write about their reactions to the movie.
"When movies deal with the internal workings of a particular profession, a certain amount of caterwauling from the real practitioners is expected," said Perry in Saturday's edition of the Times. "Soldiers and sailors are no exception."
Perry's conclusion proved to be accurate, because after the more than 2-hour, action-packed, historical epic, the Marines had a mouth full to say about how the movie reminded them of their Corps.
"Marines are very similar to the samurai," said Sgt. Rahsaan Wynn, repair technician, Communications and Information Systems Department. "The samurai warriors in the movie served their country with honor and distinction. Marines are no different."
Like the samurai, Marines strive to lead disciplined lifestyles, remaining true to their warrior roots.
"It's the warrior ethos," said Sgt. Jack Carrillo, combat artist, Command Visual Information Center, as he responded to Perry's questions. "The samurai had it, the Marines have it."
The Marines also drew comparisons between the sense of aloofness the samurai felt in their society to the way Marines are viewed in American society today.
In the movie, 19th century Japan was a divided land of old and new. The old represented by the honorable defenders of Japan - the samurai, and the new, represented by the Japanese aristocracy's push to industrialize and westernized Japan.
In other words, there was no room for sword-wielding, dragon-faced defenders of the traditional way in 19th century Japan.
Wynn compared the samurai lord, played by Ken Watanabe, to an old gunnery sergeant in the Corps.
"I can relate to the samurai," said Wynn. "They had honorable reasons for not conforming to the changes taking place in their society. In many ways, the old samurai reminded me of an old gunny unwilling to compromise his standards and traditions regardless of the political climate."
Another aspect of the movie that resonated with the Marines was the leadership the samurai displayed in the final climactic battle scene.
Through a hail of gunfire and blazing canons, the samurai leaders led the charge.
"We learn in basic training that leaders lead from the front," said Cpl. Yuri Schneider, combat artist, CVIC. "This isn't just Hollywood hokey stuff. They got it right."
After a full serving of Japanese cuisine and discussion, the Marines and the reporter ended their journey and returned home. As for the samurai, they remain among the world's most respected martial cultures.